Solemn family business took us south of the river a couple of days ago. The journey back held two options, a) bunk in at Marshside RSPB reserve for a walk down to Nels Hide or b) keep moving to avoid the dreaded 'schools out' traffic around Preston and drop in at Singleton church. We chose the latter as Monty was asleep in the back of the car and not sitting up looking like he needed a toilet stop as we passed Marshside.
A butterfly hunter was already in the churchyard when we arrived but the usual question, 'seen owt?' was answered in the negative. Not the best news but the Oak tree is large although only 58 years old and the sun was shining more strongly on the far side so we had a wander into the newer half of the graveyard. Good decision - within five minutes of looking at the top of the canopy a dark movement much lower down caught our eye and Bingo we were on to a Lifer butterfly Purple Hairstreak.We called the other watcher over and we both enjoyed pretty good binocular views of at least three of them fluttering around a small gap in the lower canopy. Really difficult to get a pic of at 600mm as it was like looking down a pea-shooter absolutely no field of view to speak of so finding the right group of four or five leaves was tricky and then the mixture of bright light on reflective surfaces and dark shadows played havoc with the metering. But we persevered changing settings every time we were able to get on a butterfly and with the magic of processing managed to get a couple of half decent pics for you in the end.
The butterflies themselves must reflect a huge amount of UV as they were horrendously over-exposed and the pics above took a lot of processing to get any colour detail at all.
There seems to be a little bit of a glut of Purple and White Letter Hairstreaks happening at the mo with small colonies of both turning up in new places every few days. Whether they are genuinely new colonies or just because there's more watchers watching and checking different sites other than the known hotspots is perhaps hard to tell but they could be moving around in response to the hot dry weather we've had for the last few weeks. We've even had what was probably a White Letter Hairstreak tazz through the garden at Base Camp and yesterday a small dark bronzy butterfly caught our attention as it fluttered along the cliffs, difficult to keep track of with the bins but deffo not a skipper, which we don't see along here nor was it a Common Blue which despite the profusion of Birds Foot Trefoil foodplant or a Small Copper which we very seldom see along the cliffs and from the flight jizz we reckon it was one of the hairstreaks unfortunately we lost sight of it when it dropped into some long vegetation we had hoped it would settle to nectar on one of the taller Ragwort flowerheads where we could get a proper look at it.
It was while we were trying to refind the butterfly we spotted someone's dog sniffing at something large on the beach, training our bins that way we saw it was a stranded and deceased Harbour Porpoise so down we went for a closer look.
It hadn't been dead long and maybe live stranded on the previous tide and been washed out and back in again. Both cheeks had been eaten away they seem to be the first bit the scavengers go for but that looks like a lot more damage than the not so many gulls on the beach could cause in a short space of time unless they'd been perched on it while it was at sea but we don't see any poop splashes although they could have washed off we suppose. It was collected and was in good enough condition to be sent for a post-mortem for the UK Strandings Scheme.Other finds on the beach recently have included an awesome undamaged Cuttlefish 'bone'. now what we'd really like would be to find a live one, they're obviously out there somehere.
Not so good a find was this long strand of Wireweed, an invasive species from the Pacific Ocean; we've seen more since trapped on the chains along the slipways down to the beach - must be a bit of a nightmare at where-ever it comes from.
Back at Base Camp the moth trap has been producing small but varied catches. This one is Agriphila straminella, a common 'micro' moth but one that doesn't visit Base Camp very often.
We've got a few more moth pics but we'll share those with you next time...might be even more by then too.
Where to next? another trip out to look for/at the Purple Hairstreaks and maybe a river wander too, if there's any water to call it a river!
In the meantime let us know who's all washed up in your outback.